Pence to announce “clear actions” on Venezuela after weekend of deadly clashes

After a weekend of clashes at Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil that left two people dead and hundreds injured, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Bogota on Monday to announce “clear actions” in response to the growing humanitarian crisis in the region, according to a senior administration official.

Pence is expected to make remarks in Bogotá at a meeting of leaders of the Lima Group, a coalition of more than a dozen nations mostly from Latin America. He will also hold his first in-person meeting with Juan Guaidó, the newly recognized interim president. Pence is expected to voice “resolute support” for Guaidó, according to the official.

The U.S. and more than 50 other countries recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela in January, after he secured the backing of opposition parties in the country’s National Assembly, which he leads, to proclaim himself interim president.

Guaidó secretly traveled to Colombia in defiance of a travel ban imposed by embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who derided Guaidó as a “puppet” of the United States before closing the country’s border with Brazil and shutting down several crossings with Colombia.

It was near those crossings that two aid trucks were set ablaze and pro-Maduro militias fired tear gas at protesting crowds on Saturday, leaving nearly 300 people injured. Two people were also killed in clashes near the Venezuela-Brazil border, where aid trucks were also dispatched.

“What happened yesterday is not going to deter us from getting humanitarian aid into Venezuela,” the administration official said Sunday.

Demonstrators throw stones at Venezuelan national guard in Pacaraima
Demonstrators throw stones at a line of Venezuelan national guards at the border in Pacaraima, Brazil, on Feb. 24, 2019.


“All [Maduro] demonstrated is he had enough henchmen to guard one end of three bridges in Colombia,” the official said. “That’s a tactical achievement for him. But it’s perishable.”

The official did not elaborate on what kinds of measures Pence was set to announce, but reiterated previous remarks in which the vice president indicated “the full measure” of the U.S.’ economic and diplomatic weight would be brought to bear to force Maduro’s ouster.

In January, the U.S. Treasury Department announced crippling sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., in addition to sanctioning several top-ranking Venezuelan officials associated with the Maduro government.

Apart from added sanctions, all options, including military intervention, remain on the table, the official said.

“We understand that what we are dealing with here is not the institution of a state but a bunch of hoodlums and thugs who resort to violence to have a lawless approach” toward attempted deliveries of aid, the official said.

“[T]he time for dialogue with Maduro is essentially over,” the official said. “The only thing that we want to discuss is the time and the nature of his departure.”

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